Friday, February 29, 2008

Quito - 21st Century; San Francisco - 19th Century

Standing in line at the 16th and Mission Wells Fargo ATM this afternoon, I was taking a deep breath and trying to transport myself back barely 36 hours early when I was at the wonderful Cafe Cultura in Quito's La Marisical. In theory the U.S. is the "world's leading nation," and San Francisco is its golden child, a quaint, artsy city with perfectly swept streets and serves as the epicenter of the vanguard of technology and progress. Reality could not be further from that myth.

Granted, I'd heard of recent machete hold ups in La Marisical, but there is no question it is infinitely more civilized and classy than any spot in the Mission.

As I saw an inept technician pulling paper out of the ATM and a MUNI bus creaking by jam-packed with smelly, sloppily dressed passengers, I could not help but long to be back in Quito, the largest city in a nation with 60% of its population living in poverty. Yet, it has an amazingly effective bus system modeled on those of Curtiba, Brazil, and Bogota, Colombia. Both cities' bus systems are incredibly effective. Passengers enter a raised, glass enclosed structure and pay their fare in order to enter the sliding glass doors of the bus stop so they enter the bus without having to deal with the driver. Since the buses and platforms are at the same level, people in wheelchairs simply wheel in without any hassles. The buses are filled with clean, well dressed polite passengers similar to what one would see in Barcelona.

San Francisco, the alleged technology center of the world, has MUNI, a public transit system using 19th century technology, rude and incompetent drivers who are often crack addicts and earning $100,000 or more a year. Even a recent TV investigation has brought about no action or progress on the feces of humanity that drive these buses. If you are in a wheelchair, getting on the bus is extremely difficult. Out of desperation, many passengers enter illegally through the back door and are insulted or assaulted by the drivers. That is why I usually walk in this city.

I have worked nearly 20 years in a field that has taken me to many similar "third world" cities. Many times I am told that first and third world conditions exist in the same place. However, I am increasingly convinced that the U.S. is destined to become the capital of the New Third World by century's end, a place filled with exploited, deprived masses as the tiny ruling elite hunker down in their walled mansions. Bogota, once the most violent cities in the world, now has a crime rate lower than that of most major U.S. cities.

Need I explain why I hope to retire in South America, not the U.S.?

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At 11:30 PM, Blogger Jacob the Unicorn said...

yep. i totes agree. the present condition is really upsetting.

At 2:38 AM, Blogger Clarence Jr. said...

Thanks for posting our film!

One thing since you are from SF, you might love to check out one I did on the removal of the Embarcadero Freeway:

I actually have 6 films from the Bay Area.

Take care,


At 4:28 AM, Blogger Dave said...

In every "third world" country I've ever been to, it's really easy to take a bus anywhere you want to go, because pretty much everybody takes the bus. In the U.S., if you go outside your really large cities and tell someone you're taking the bus, they look at you like you're nuts. Because, you know, taking the bus is what poor people do. Which is exactly why public transportation in most of this country is so shitty.

At 6:02 AM, Blogger jason said...

Thanks for that bit of objectivity....
the best thing about travelling.
(even vicariously)

At 6:16 AM, Blogger Bryan said...

I am constantly amazed that people still refer to the US as the greatest place in the world. But then the ones who say that are usually the ones that do not hold a passport. Every time I travel abroad it gets harder and harder to come home.

At 6:51 AM, Blogger kimy said...

very interesting post. you are on to something in your analysis, when you state:
"However, I am increasingly convinced that the U.S. is destined to become the capital of the New Third World by century's end, a place filled with exploited, deprived masses as the tiny ruling elite hunker down in their walled mansions."

anyone who doesn't think this may be so obviously isn't paying attention!!

At 10:06 AM, Blogger Ladrón de Basura (a.k.a. Junk Thief) said...

Jacob - Glad you agree, and thanks for dropping by.

Clarence - Thanks for checking us out, and I look forward to seeing you SF area films.

Dave - I despise the term "third world" and was using it with irony. I've also taken the bus several times in Mexico. The crowd is a mix of poor but mainly middle class people. It is generally clean and safe.

Jason - I'm not sure I was THAT objective since I did a bit of a rant but thanks for giving me credit for being objective.

Bryan - I completely agree. The "Go U.S.A." crowd usually have never left the country to see we're not #1.

Kim - I would add that it's all the more reason to vote come November. I'm not saying the Democrats will turn things around 360 degrees, but they do offer a glimmer, however small it might be, of hope.

At 2:06 PM, Blogger Bryce Digdug said...

Landro - you are so right about the liveability of the U.S. Plus we have no government medical care - ludicrous. MUNI does have a few new buses where you just walk on without climbing stairs. I love them and there is an upstairs VIP lounge in the back.

La Bryce

At 2:06 PM, Blogger Bryce Digdug said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 5:21 PM, Blogger Ladrón de Basura (a.k.a. Junk Thief) said...

You're so right on the health service, Bryce. We're working with the group CEMOPLAF that is providing low or no cost health care to indigenous populations. Perhaps you and I can work on them opening a branch in San Francisco. They're also very good at providing depo-provera shots in case you decide you want one of those.

At 2:06 PM, Blogger WAT said...

Beautiful Spanish colonialism architecture here.

Well, I dunno about retiring to South America just yet, as these very countries u speak of, along with Venezuela may be going to war soon. LMAO!


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